In the animated movie, Hoodwinked, there’s a flashback where Little Red Riding Hood, or Red, finds a medal in her grandma’s spoon drawer. It said, “Battle of the Iron-Cage Gladiators”. I think I finally get the idea now. I hope for my sanity that Granny Puckett never had to stab someone’s intestines out.
Fallon is an heir to the throne of Durenvarnum. She loves riding horse chariots and attempting a trick even her late sister Sorcha couldn’t perfect. Her boyfriend Mael tries his best to help her with her stunts and give her a helping hand while also knowing when a retreat is in order. has a brother named Aedden. It’s when Fallon wants to reveal her relationship with Mael to her father when he announces she and Aedden will be betrothed instead. And not just that, he has set it up so Fallon has no chance ever again of becoming a warrior. With Fallon and Mael both too flustered to function, tragedy ends up striking, and as Fallon tries to catch a criminal who just took away her future (no, not the king, a different person), she ends up drugged and caged with no ability to let the people she grew up with know she’s alive. She’s in shackles next to other girls sleeping on the dirty, dusty floor, as parched as camels, now in a group of girls to be sold into slavery. Fallon desires escape, but then something piques her curiosity about where she’s going; the fact one of the people involved in these auctions is the great Julius Caesar himself, who forever ago held her father up for ransom, and her sister Sorcha died fighting the battle that got him out alive. Maybe it’s time to do a little bit of interception. And thus we have Book 1 in Livingston’s new Valiant trilogy, where all three books are already out but I’m just commencing.
The best thing about The Valiant is Livingston’s ability to talk about history better than any historian or textbook could ever do. I used to hate History class in public school, but that was because it didn’t teach me what I wanted to learn in it. I don’t blame the teacher, I blame the subject matter. We discussed the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, the most significant Canadian battle in history. Yet we went more into detail of the ways of life of the French and English, and the way we learned about the deaths of hundreds of soldiers in an English ambush wasn’t dramatized as much as it should’ve. I now realize history is one of the most important school subjects, because those who forget history tend to repeat it. It’s important we look back at the reaction of people and governments during The Great Depression; how Hitler was able to get away with as much as he did until enough worldwide retaliation provoked a retribution, and how the American government lied when they said they were winning the Vietnam war, continuously sending soldiers to Vietnam knowing they would be killed, only to convey a false sense of pride to its people.
I admit, though, that the confusing names of the regions get in the way, especially Fallon’s home town of, uh, it starts with a D. Livingston decides to speed past a lot of details to have more room for the fighting, so it can be a little difficult to remember why the Celtic Britons were against the Roman Empire, if you aren’t already caught up with your second-century history books. I got the impression Livingston was hoping we’d do research on our own time and not worry about it. Or maybe I was reading the book too fast. That’s a more optimistic take on it.
We don’t really care about the politics; we care about these characters. Fallon, Elka, Ajani, Kassandra, and even Charon are good people. We’re also skeptical about Caesar, Cleopatra, Techiatris, Nyx, and especially Pontius Aquila. We can tell something big is going to go down, we just don’t want our protagonists to experience too much pain, cause anything can happen in a Gladiator arena. Fallon is also immediately sympathetic when she manages to rescue someone who may not have deserved to be, as well as her acknowledgment when captured that she never had respect for the maids and slaves when she was royal, and she now regrets numerous parts of her life. Both are noble things to do and think.
The Valiant is an effortless treat, and even though it’s not a revolutionary novel, it enjoys having the power to let almighty female warriors fight until their bucket is a cup of blood away from tipping over.